Offshore drilling, Euro 2012: England 1, France 1
Man of the Match: Scott Parker was so tired by the 78th minute, Roy Hodgson had little choice but to bring him off. Before then, Parker was the main reason France couldn’t make their advantage in midfield decisive. Piling on interceptions and blocks throughout his shift, Parker made life easy for John Terry and Joleon Lescott, even though France dominated play. Without his presence in the middle, England could have been picked apart.
Packaged for takeaway:
- Remember, England was without their best player. Wayne Rooney served the first of his two-match suspension. Though many are going to look at the stats and think England was second-best (perhaps undeserving of their point), that doesn’t matter. England wanted a draw, and they got it.
- Those statistical advantages: France held 55 percent of possession (per UEFA), outshot England 19 to 3 and put 15 shots on target (eight blocked) to England’s 1. That tells an unfairly lopsided tale, as England was more than willing to concede shots from beyond 22 yards.
- The first goal was more a refection of France’s errors than England’s good work. In the 30th minute, Patrice Evra conceded a petty foul on England’s right flank. Steven Gerrard put in a decent cross, but five yards from goal, Hugo Lloris should have caught it. He took one step out be stayed, allowing Joleon Lescott, who beat Alou Diarra at Gerrard’s touch, an easy conversion. Three France errors led to England a rather simple goal.
- Samir Nasri responded, though there is some debate as to how much credit he deserved for the equalizer. A hard shot at the left post from outside the area, many thought Joe Hart should have stopped it. Steve has more on that (I completely agree about the “near post” rule being used too liberally). For me, it could go either way. Hart’s not going to be happy he let that through, but that goal happens every once in a while. And, as we saw today, sometimes it happens to the best.
- Nasri was France’s best player throughout. A right wing by formation, Nasri spend almost the entire game in the space between Karim Benzema and France’s highest midfielders - Yoann Cabaye and Florent Malouda. A number of nice chips and near connections with Karim Benzema continuously tested Parker, Gerrard, and (given France leaned left much of the night) John Terry. Terry responded well, and with England’s midfielders sitting (at times) incredibly deep, Nasri often had to settle for propping up Benzema’s long distance shots.
- England can’t play the midfield that deep and expect to do anything beyond group stage. They probably couldn’t play that way against France again and expect to get a result. The detriments to the approach were seen on Nasri’s goal, where Gerrard (along with Parker, collapsed into the box) couldn’t get out to contest the shot.
- England also have to be worried about their fitness if they’re not going to have more of the ball. Parker was gassed by the time he came off. Steven Gerrard’s positioning was starting to fail, the best example coming in the 69th minute, when he failed to even try to get back in position after coming out of midfield to challenge high.
- Both teams should be happy with their central defense pairings. Phillip Mexes and Adil Rami weren’t tested often but they also never conceded any serious chances on Hugo Lloris. Given the work Danny Welbeck put in, it was a commendable job. John Terry and Joleon Lescott were tested (though really, not that often) and were equally up to the task. Neither of the match’s goals were the fault of central pairings who had questions surrounding them coming into the night.
- Which team played more conservatively: England against France, or Portugal against Germany (before Germany scored)? For England, it was a very contained performance, and a lot of people are going to ask whether it’s a viable approach.
- Going forward, each team has areas where they’ll want to see improvement. France should have generated more chances and, at the end of the match, should have been pushing themselves to do so. Laurent Blanc needs to instill some urgency. England is going to have to play a little bit more, because sitting back and defending the whole match, they were spent at the final whistle. Had France hit the gas, England would have been in big trouble.
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